Optimising flows to make cities smarter and safer

By 2050, cities will be home to 70% of the world's population and will generate 80% of all CO2 emissions. Already faced with growing pressure on space availability and transport systems, cities are revisiting their strategic priorities and planning for a model of development that is more sustainable, smarter and more creative.

New information and communication technologies are at the centre of these strategies, improving city management by collecting and analysing key data (traffic monitoring, pollution measurements, etc.) and facilitating decision-making processes.

Thales is at the heart of the transformation process. The Group has been working with some of the world's largest cities for several decades, helping to build more functional, collaborative and interconnected urban communities where technology is used to improve the quality of life.

Did you know?
City managers use Thales solutions to pull together information from multiple sources — water and energy consumers, subscribers to public and private services, transport users, etc. — to improve citizens' quality of life.


Cities: Fertile ground for innovation

Cities are a nexus of resources and skills, providing unique opportunities for different stakeholders to come together and share ideas and making them a fertile ground for innovation. Thales is a trusted partner of governments and major companies, working with them to design and develop the solutions that will shape the cities of the future.

Pooling data to improve decision making

Smart cities make use of the masses of information available to them to deliver high-quality services to their citizens — from security and transport to energy, sanitation, water and healthcare.

Today cities must tap into the huge volumes of data generated every day to better manage services and anticipate user needs in an increasingly complex environment. With a more joined-up approach to city management and a wider choice of services available, local authorities can enhance the quality of life of their citizens, attract new businesses and drive sustainable economic growth.

Thales's Smart City Platform is a modular solution that smoothly integrates all of a city's services. Its intuitive interface offers operators a comprehensive picture of situations using diverse data from different systems so they can coordinate their teams better, anticipate actions and make faster, more informed decisions. It allows them to work together to manage daily operations and crisis situations and is a valuable tool for long-term urban planning.

Big data technologies also offer major benefits for citizens by mining the enormous quantities of data produced by connected cities. Smartphones, public lighting, transport systems, billboards and displays, access control systems at public places and CCTV cameras are just some of the ever-increasing number of connected urban objects managed by different types of information systems. According to some projections[1], there will be 50 billion connected objects by 2020. With a world population of 7.6 billion, that’s seven objects per person, compared to just 0.03 in 2003.

Thales’s expertise covers the full spectrum of Big data technologies, from data collection to storage, analysis and visualisation. These technologies will allow urban policy-makers and stakeholders to work more closely together to understand and anticipate the needs of city dwellers and respond to their expectations.

By pulling together information from multiple data sources — water and energy consumers, subscribers to public and private services, transport users, etc. — city managers now have powerful tools at their fingertips to know what citizens want and set up the appropriate channels of communication (websites, mobile apps, etc.).

Thales is working with cities around the world to develop these new tools and discover the untold treasures lying in today's huge silos of underused data. Big data is the new El Dorado for smart cities. It's the key to their ability to provide citizens the services they expect — and some they never even dreamed of!

A full-scale urban laboratory in Quebec
The Unité Mixte de Recherche en Sciences Urbaines (UMR-SU) *, which opened in Quebec in 2015, is an innovation hub combining the experience of academic and industry experts, city planners and city managers.
Managed by Thales Research & Technology, the research centre — the only one of its kind in the world — aims to develop the city planning solutions of the future, addressing issues such as sustainable mobility, water and wastewater management, electricity, urban spaces, infrastructure and more.
Researchers at the centre have access to a full-scale laboratory. The city of Quebec provides access to its information systems so they can use real data to design and test intelligent solutions for the cities of tomorrow.
*Laval University, National Institute of Scientific Research, Quebec Metro High Tech Park, Quebec City, Thales.


Terra Dynamica: a living virtual city
Terra Dynamica is a French cluster collaboration project (Cap Digital - Advancity) sponsored by Thales and its partners to create a 3D simulated city platform brought to life by artificial intelligence.
The programme can show up to 30,000 "intelligent" urban actors (pedestrians, cars, etc.), each with its own "personality" that allows it to behave autonomously. By simulating flows of people and automobiles in a city, Terra Dynamica helps city stakeholders find the best solutions for urban development, road traffic optimisation and pedestrian traffic management.
With 3D visuals and sound, users can understand a situation from a technical or conceptual standpoint and actually experience proposed changes first-hand. The programme is a valuable tool for stakeholders, who can precisely determine, for example, the quietest place to build a childcare facility or how to ensure the safety of pedestrians walking to an exhibition centre.
The tool was developed in time to play a role in several projects under way as part of the Grand Paris project. Terra Dynamica can be used, for example, to show the public the inside of new train stations, how passengers will move around, outdoor facilities, their urban surroundings, etc.


Green IT

Since the late 1990s, Green IT has raised its profile, and sustainable ICT[2] is now a key component of the sustainable development strategies of organisations everywhere.

Thales's sustainable ICT systems fall into three main categories:

Green IT 1.0 (Green for IT) is a continuous improvement process that aims to reduce the environmental impact of IT throughout the life-cycle of hardware and software, including design, use, pollution and waste management.

Thales designs and transforms its datacentres — and its customers' IT infrastructure and datacentres — to continuously reduce their environmental footprint by improving the performance of electrical installations and climate control systems.

Thales's information systems are eco-designed to limit their environmental impact throughout their life cycle.

Thales's cloud computing services use resources more efficiently and optimise loads to enhance the overall performance of IT infrastructure.

Green IT 1.5 is a continuous improvement process that aims to improve the environmental footprint, economic performance and social responsibility of an organisation through ICT, for example by reducing travel, switching to fully electronic data exchange or using sustainable development information systems to measure and simulate environmental footprints (including carbon accounting, software for rating suppliers' environmental performance, CSR management and reporting tools).

With its eco-designed cloud computing solutions, Thales designs collaborative information systems and podcasting and videoconferencing systems (e-learning, conference, briefings, etc.) that allow customers to cut down on travel needs.

Green IT 2.0 (IT for Green) is a continuous improvement process that aims to improve the environmental footprint, economic performance and social responsibility of a product or service through ICT, for example by adding an eco-driving function to GPS, using smart grids, optimising energy use in buildings, developing e-commerce, promoting smart management of mobility and transport systems, and helping to plan and develop smart cities.

The state-of-the-art solutions described in this document all apply the principles of Green IT 2.0.


Improving the passenger experience

A smart city is a city that runs more smoothly, is more intuitive and strives to create the conditions for sustainable mobility. By improving the passenger experience on public transport systems, cities around the world are addressing the major issues of fighting air pollution and reducing traffic congestion.

For nearly 40 years, Thales has been designing intelligent systems that allow operators to provide better service to passengers, helping cities to reduce their carbon footprint.

Did you know?
Thales's road traffic management solutions deliver measurable results:
  • 20% reduction in travel times
  • 5% reduction in emissions
  • 60% reduction in traffic jams during peak travel times
  • 70% reduction in accidents at toll booths due to reduced queues.

Easing congestion

Thales's urban traffic control systems allow operators to regulate traffic flows and address black spots on the roads in real time in order to make traffic flow smoothly by optimising traffic light sequences, for example. As a result, drivers spend less time in their cars, reducing their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Thales deployed this type of system for the Strasbourg, one of the first cities in France to make environmental issues a priority. The automatic traffic information and control system (SIRAC) can also manage pedestrian areas and available parking spaces. It uses more than 800 control points to deliver real-time traffic metrics at individual junctions and crossings, allowing controllers to prioritise public transport vehicles, improve traffic flows and cut congestion.

In Seine-Saint-Denis, near Paris, the GERFAUT system regulates more than 600 traffic lights, with the aim of limiting pollution due to road congestion and improving the traveller experience. The solution prioritises intermodal mobility — all public transport vehicles (trams and buses) are given right of way at traffic lights — and helps to manage traffic at peak periods around Le Bourget for the Paris Air Show, for example, and around the Stade de France when a big game is scheduled. A network of traffic sensors, traffic video and weather stations provides constant updates on travel conditions, while signs provide roadway and public transport users with up-to-date information.

Thales also deploys traffic information systems that provide drivers with near-real-time data on traffic conditions and advises them how to avoid traffic jams. In the United Kingdom, for example, Thales developed the National Traffic Information Service for the Highways Agency.

Innovative urban toll collection systems designed by Thales regulate vehicle flows coming into cities. In Brisbane, Australia, journey times are reduced and road safety is improved thanks to Free-Flow Tolling, a latest-generation electronic toll system from Thales.
This tolling technology is unlike any other on the market. It authorises contactless payments, eliminating the starts and stops required by traditional toll systems, increases the capacity of existing roads and reduces operating costs while cutting carbon emissions. The system also helps to keep drivers safe, having reduced the number of accidents on the Brisbane toll road by 70%.

Thales recently equipped the ring road around Mexico City with a high-performance electronic toll system based on RFID technology that also helps traffic flow more smoothly as drivers enter and exit the roadway.

Satellite navigation systems, such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), also help to optimise road traffic flows.


Making access easier

Thales has deployed high-tech fare collection systems in countries known for their commitment to environmental protection, including the Netherlands, Denmark, New Zealand and Canada. These systems allow passengers to use a single ticket to travel on different modes of transport in a given region or even across an entire country.

Thales replaced all the fare collection systems in the Netherlands with a single ticket system based on contactless technology. Passengers can now use the same ticket for any type of journey, and the system allocates revenues from ticket sales to the country's different transport operators. The solution has been deployed in 12 provinces and 16 major cities and brings together the systems used by 17 transport operators.

DreamGate, an environmentally responsible automatic fare collection system
The DreamGate automatic fare collection system represents a step change in safety and security for operators and passengers, boosting operational performance and reducing environmental impact. It is smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient, and features a 3D camera and smart actuators to reduce the number of components needed and make it easier to install and maintain.


Improving service through data analysis

Fare collection systems generate large volumes of data on passenger travel and profiles, making them ideal applications for Big data technologies.

Since the end of 2009, travellers in the Greater Toronto area have been using a state-of-the-art system called Presto, designed and developed by Thales, to ride trains, buses and the metro system with a single contactless ticket valid across the entire network. About a dozen different public transport operators have adopted Presto.

The system's Business Analytics functions use a network of fixed and handheld ticket validators to determine mobility patterns across this huge metropolitan area, stretching more than 200 km along the shore of Lake Ontario. Based on the results, new services can be developed and tailored to actual needs. For example, areas with fewer passengers can be better served by using smaller buses, creating line detours, combining modes of transport, etc.

In addition, an entire transportation network can be modelled by combining this ticketing data with information from signalling and supervision systems — another area where Thales is a world market leader. This makes it possible to predict the consequences of a service disruption caused by maintenance work or bad weather, for example, and plan alternative forms of transport for passengers.

The possibilities are endless. Thales brings to the table a range of expertise and an in-depth understanding of transport operators' business processes. We are therefore in an excellent position to choose the best Big data technologies and the best analytics and visualisation tools to extract as much relevant information as possible and present it in a way that operators can understand. All of these solutions make cities run more smoothly, consume less energy and improve citizen well-being.

EcoNet© optimises the use of electric cars
Thales designed the EcoNet© application to monitor electric car charging networks in Spain. The application covers all types of charging (slow, semi-fast and fast) at a variety of locations, such as service stations, car parks, local communities, vehicle fleets, etc.
Thanks to EcoNet©, administrators can optimise charging based on electricity prices, manage pricing depending on various criteria (location, date, time, etc.) along with user consumption and billing, monitor the condition of all charging stations, track maintenance needs, etc.
A dedicated portal for desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets allows users to locate charging stations on a map, find the closest station, view a station's availability, display their car's consumption history, calculate the optimal time and type of charge or reserve time at a charging station.
The EcoNet© solution is already being used by the Technology Park of Andalusia in Malaga and IBIL (a joint venture between the Basque Government and the energy company Repsol), the largest network of charging stations in service in Spain.


MultiI-modal transport in a single app
Thales has designed a real-time transport calculator that allows smartphone users to plan their journey by using a combination of all available modes of transport. The prototype app is powered by data from transport operators, car-sharing and car-pooling services, as well as road traffic information systems. It is designed to track 41 million journeys every day throughout the Paris region and will support up to a million real-time queries. The app helps passengers to use public transport more efficiently by giving them a specific indication of how much time they are saving.

[1] Cisco IBSG survey published in 2012

[2] Information and Communication Technology

Ethics and Corporate Responsibility Department
+33 (0)1 57 77 80 00